Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Today's GCC guest is Melissa Sentate, author of several wildly popular books, the latest being The Breakup Club. I asked Melissa some questions about her writing life, and she smartly incorporated my questions into her answers:

What inspired The Breakup Club: "A close friend, who I admired so much for haivng the courage to leave her bad marriage and start a brand new life, said one day, "Thank God the breakup club is meeting today. It's better than too many margaritas or food." Turns out she and her coworkers met a few times a week, usually over lunch, to commiserate over the breakups they were all going through. That support saw my friend through such a bad time. Another friend said, "Ugh, misery loves company. A bunch of sadsacks sitting around moping." Hardly. But that actually is the point of support groups--if you need to be a moping sadsack (how's that for redundant), you can be! I was also inspired to explore how co-workers who normally wouldn't say two words to each other around the water cooler can become like family.

What inspires me in general: "My office inspires me. The poster of Chagall's "The Birthday," which makes me so happy to look at all day long, and my tiny angel statue from the Vatican Museums (if I could live anywhere, it would be Rome), pictures of my brother and sister and myself as young children. Then there are those gems I overhear from people chatting across from me in the coffee lounge who send my mind off on tangents, and suddenly I have a new idea for a book. I'm also inspired by people I see every day but don't know at all, like my town librarian or the twentysomething with seventeen earrings who gives me my Earl Grey tea every morning at said coffee lounge or even the cop who gave me a 185 dollar speeding ticket yesterday on my OWN STREET. Total strangers who I interact with for a minute here and there make me wonder and ideas start forming. Right now, though, I can't shake the idea of someone on one of those awful bus tours of a region. I have no idea where it came from, but I have a feeling my next book will be set on a bus! I think many of my ideas come from my dreams, which I never remember.

How does it feel to have your book translated onto the screen: "I have seen the TV movie of See Jane Date eleven times, and every time it's on I feel that same magical, I-can't-believe-this-really-happened joy. I love the film, love how it was adapted. There were changes made, but the spirit of the book, of the main character, is all over the screen. Then there's the fact that Antonio Sabato Jr., whose Calvin Klein underwear model poster I had up over my bed in my college dorm, played the guy who broke Jane's heart. I couldn't have hand-picked the more perfect actor for that role. The entire experience, from start to finish, was just pure joy and icing and I-have-to-pinch-myself."

Transition from editor to writer: "I'd already decided to leave publishing and my career as an editor behind when I wrote my first book (which I actually never had any intention to write until an editor I used to work with called to tell me I should try my hand at this new "chick lit" stuff). I'd enrolled in graduate school to become certified to teach high school English in the New York City public school system, but after my first year in the program, I had to ask myself what I really wanted to commit to: this new writing career, which seemed to have so much potential, or teaching, which would require 110% of me and leave little energy for writing. I figured I could always go back to the program or work with teens in a different capacity, and I commited myself to writing full-time. As for what editing taught me about writing--I hate that this is my answer: that publishing is a business."

Advice to aspiring writers: "Read. Read. Read. Go to writer's conferences and learn about agents and editors and publishing houses. Network. Find like-minded people who share your passion. Trust your instincts! But most of all, write."

My favorite fruit: Plums.

Thanks so much, Melissa! Best of luck on your GCC tour and beyond!

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